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Spotted Sandpiper

Actitis macularia

Length: 7.5 inches Wingspan: 14 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Large round spotting on breast (summer), white eyebrow, short straight bill.

Spotted Sandpiper - Actitis maculariaOne of the most widespread and common of the Sandpipers, the Spotted Sandpiper can be found teetering along shorelines and riverbanks throughout the state.  They are generally found singly, very rarely in large groups.  It has a habit of constantly bobbing its rear end up and down.  Wintering grounds include the coastlines and southern portions of the United States all the way through southern South America.


Spotted Sandpipers can be found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats in the state, including the shorelines of lakes, ponds, and rivers, small riparian streams, and flooded ditches and fields.


Large numbers of insects, also crustaceans, mollusks, small fish, earthworms, and occasionally carrion.


Uses a wide variety of foraging techniques, most often plucking food items from the water's surface or the ground.  Very seldom flocks with others of the species, usually found alone or in pairs. When found foraging on the shoreline or near water, they will often walk or run for a short stretch before pausing, bobbing their tail up and down. They will often initially run away when a perceived threat approaches. When they do take flight, they have a characteristic very rapid, shallow wingbeat flight pattern.


Late May through early July in South Dakota. Courtship between Spotted Sandpiper pairs may consist of short displays, with wings fanned in front of the potential partner. Mock nest-building activities also typically occur, with a number of sites explored and partial nests constructed before the final nest site is selected. The nest itself is typically placed in the cover of a small shrub or other vegetation that provides some shelter and protection, typically relatively near water. It consists of a shallow scrape, lined with grasses and bits of wood. It is the male that incubates the eggs, with the young hatching after about 20-23 days. The male also cares for the young without assistance from the female.  Females may mate with multiple males during the breeding season.


Interactions among Spotted Sandpipers are often accompanied by a string of tsweet calls, given in rapid succession. They also have multiple call and alarm notes of one syllable.


 Summers throughout much of the United States and Canada.  Winters along North American coasts, the extreme southern United States, down through much of South America.

Interactive Ebird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Spotted Sandpiper sightings

Similar Species:

Spotted Sandpipers could potentially be confused with some other yellow-legged sandpiper/shorebird species that are found in South Dakota, particularly during migration.

Solitary Sandpiper 6 - Tringa solitaria Solitary Sandpiper 4 - Tringa solitaria Lesser Yellowlegs 2 - Tringa flavipes Lesser Yellowlegs 25 - Tringa flavipes
Solitary Sandpiper Solitary Sandpiper Lesser Yellowlegs Lesser Yellowlegs

Conservation Status:

Spotted Sandpipers are found a very broad geographic region and are common in many parts of their range, although surveys in recent decades have shown small declines in overall populations. However, there are no serious current threats to the overall population, and the IUCN considers the Spotted Sandpiper to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

May 27th, 2013 -- Minnehaha County -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Spotted Sandpiper photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Spotted Sandpiper - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant and uncommon summer resident in suitable habitat across the state.

Additional Spotted Sandpiper Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Spotted Sandpiper 1 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 2 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 3 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 4 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 5 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 6 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 7 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 8 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 9 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 10 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 11 -  Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 12 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 13 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 14 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 15 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 16 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 17 - Actitis maculariusSpotted Sandpiper 18 - Actitis macularius